Summer is finally here! And we’re ready to get the fun started. Check out our latest Summer Fun & Travel Guide filled with amazing products for you and your kids to enjoy. It includes over 90 NAPPA Award winning products that have been tested and evaluated. It features water toys for fun in the sun, games and puzzles to challenge your mind, books for summer reading, music for a rockin’ playlist and travel gear for comfort on the go. Check it out for everything you need this summer!
During these uncertain times, it’s important to find creative and safe fun for your family. However, after so many months of pandemic conditions, it’s easy to run out of ideas. Our family found one more source of fun by creating a cozy outdoor Hollywood experience in the comfort of our backyard.
Here is a safe way to host your own backyard movie night and turn any outdoor space, no matter what size, into a home theater. Cover all your bases with the following products and suggestions. Your kids will enjoy it so much, you might even be able to sneak in a documentary!
Assemble the equipment
The most important technical element for your outdoor theater is the projector, on which you can spend anywhere from $69 to $1,600.
A projector is a more effective outdoor viewing device than your TV, since your television is likely too small. It also needs to be plugged into a wall outlet and can be difficult to move outside and keep stable in an outdoor setting. Make sure you choose a projector of the proper size. You want one small enough that you’ll be able to move it outside.
Other important considerations when choosing your projector include its resolution, brightness and speakers. Many projectors take a high-resolution image and compress it into a lower quality one. If you want true HD content, you should choose a higher-end projector. Another factor in picture quality is brightness. The brighter your projector, the brighter and clearer the image that will appear on your screen. Keep in mind that the farther away the projector is from the wall, the larger the image will appear on screen.
Another important basic element is the media player, with prices ranging from $24.99- $1,099. If your Wi-Fi signal reaches your backyard, you can use a media player the size of a thumb drive that will just plug directly into your projector. If your Wi-Fi signal can’t reach your yard, you can try downloading movies and playing them directly from your laptop. You will likely need an HDMI adapter to connect the laptop to the projector. You can also play your movies on a DVD or Blu-ray player. You’ll just need to buy the proper cables to connect your media player to the projector.
The next technical element is your screen. At the low end cost of the spectrum, hanging a bright white sheet (costing as little as $11) is pretty much the easiest and most affordable solution. Just tie a wire or sturdy rope between two poles, trees or other structural supports, and use two clips to hang the sheet. Finish off by securing the sheet to the ground with some weighted objects to avoid it blowing in the wind and—viola!
At the more expensive end of the spectrum, purchasing an actual screen with a sturdy frame and ground stakes will give you the clearest image out of whatever projector you choose. These can cost as much as $600. You can also get a large blowup screen, but you are going to have to do some blowup work before each movie.
The final basic elements include speakers and extension power cords. Many projectors have speakers built in, but they won’t provide the best or loudest sound quality. For the noise to really travel, you’ll want to use the projector’s analog output and either a 3.5-mm-to-3.5-mm stereo cable or a 3.5-mm-to-RCA cable to connect a soundbar or a Bluetooth speaker, which can cost from around $40 to $1,750. You will also likely need an extension cord for your outdoor theater unless you luck out and you have an outlet close to where your projector will go. Cords and cables can cost $12-$65.
When shopping for our home theater equipment, we set price alerts for what we needed on www.price.com. We splurged on picture and sound and wound up using a white sheet to start our endeavor.
Setting up some good lighting will help create a welcoming ambiance for your outdoor theater. Use string lights, lanterns and flameless LED candles to add atmosphere. These are ideal since you want your lighting to be dim enough that you can keep the screen in clear view.
You can also provide glowsticks to amp up the fun factor for your kids. Consider setting up walkway lights or supplying flashlights to help keep everyone from stepping on any of the equipment.
Amp up the lounge factor
Give yourself and the kids something to lounge around on for the evening. Folding chairs and camping chairs work well if you’re arranging the seating on a hard surface. If you’ve got plastic chairs, consider draping them with something like plush towels. You could also set out blankets, pillows and beanbags on the grass. Whatever you’ve got for seating, you just want it to be a comfortable environment since you’ll be seated for a couple of hours.
To really elevate everyone’s comfort level, simply add a basket of blankets, because warm blankets will go a million miles. This is a great way to make your outdoor theater feel special. We splurge on UGG blankets. Just give everyone their own blanket, and I promise you’ll hear no complaints. If necessary, provide citronella candles and bug repellant to keep insect visitors at bay.
Have fun with food
A makeshift concession stand is the cherry on top of your theater under the stars. Serve all the traditional refreshments to make it feel like a real movie theater: individual bags of popcorn, candy and sodas. Add a fun little place to put them, such as an old wheelbarrow, just to make the food stand out.
And there you have it. With a little investment of cash and creativity, your family is ready for lights, camera, action!
Margot Black is a storyteller with more than 15 years of experience, an L.A.-based traveler, wife and mom.
Ready for some family fun! Check out these new NAPPA Award winners!
A super-fun game about YOU and your people–and your likes and dislikes. How well do you know each other? Can your teammate guess your RANK? $30.00, ages 8+, storyastic.com
Like paint-by-numbers, but with stickers! A great activity for the whole family, maker spaces, community-building events, reading challenges, and more! $36.00, ages 5+, letsticktogether.com
The first player to successfully place all of their ice blocks and their fox pawn on the sculpture wins the game. The blocks are slippery so be careful or the sculpture may come tumbling down. $36.00, ages 7+, simplyfun.com
A fun three-dimensional game that will have players practicing their planning skills and adapting to new conditions. Race around the track, planning which paths to take in order to get ahead. $38.00, ages 7+, simplyfun.com
Addresses every day teachable moments that aim to normalize conversations around safety and flexible thinking through the medium of a board game. $19.99, ages 4+, gameplangame.com
For more award-winning products, visit NAPPAAwards.com
Summer means outdoor fun and what’s better than water play! These NAPPA Award winners are perfect for hot summer days.
Baby Spring Float Splash Station
The Baby Spring Float Splash Station is a part of the SwimWays Swim Steps program, designed to provide a fun and secure first-time water experience for babies. It includes adorable whale and starfish interactive water toys that squirt and spray water. It also features a patented inner spring around the outside edge for added stability, removable sun canopy with UPF 50+ sun protection, soft mesh seat with secure leg holes and mesh sippy cup holder. $29.99, ages 9-24 months.
X-Shot Fast Fill
The X-SHOT Fast-Fill allows you to refill your blaster in 1 second and get back to the water blasting action long before your opponents. Just dunk, fill and close with rapid sealing technology. It shoots up to 30ft/10m and you can fill it anywhere, because a Fast-Fill is everything. Up Your Game this summer! $12.99, ages 5+
PAW Patrol Swim Trainer Life Jackets
The PAW Patrol Swim Trainer Life Jackets are U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for kids. Permanent flotation in the arms and chest provide greater mobility and the out-of-reach adjustable back buckles are convenient for parents and more secure for kids. The life jackets feature soft fabric and fit most children weighing 30-50 pounds. Available in PAW Patrol 3-D Chase & Skye characters (Chase & Skye sold individually) and PAW Patrol non-3-D character graphics. $18.88-$24.99 each, fits most children weighing 30-50 pounds.
For more award winning products, visit nappaawards.com
Summer is here and that means pool parties, barbecues, picnic at the park and beach days. To get the party started, we have these terrific portable speakers and NAPPA Award winners that are great for anytime, anywhere. Great for travel too. Dance party anyone?
My Audio Pet Splash
My Audio Pet Splash are adorable, portable and waterproof bluetooth speakers with a powerful 5 watt driver. Features a ridiculously long-lasting 1000 mAH rechargeable battery (up to 8 hours of play time), a selfie remote and True Wireless Stereo (TWS) Technology. The Hide & Speak App – The Crazy Fun Family Friendly App is included with purchase. $39.99
Let the musical fun begin with Jooki! An adorable and smart player that lets kids choose and listen to music and stories with ToyTouch™ Technology. Kids are in control to listen, dance, imagine while music or stories play. Uploaded from a phone using the Jooki app or drag-and-drop from iTunes on a laptop. You can also choose Spotify to create the playlist. Link the Jooki characters, who will play to the playlist when placed on the Jooki speaker. $199
JBL JR POP
Kid-proof durability combined with epic sound. The JBL JR POP will be an instant favorite with kids and parents alike. With five hours of playtime, a waterproof design and JBL’s Signature Sound, the JR POP will have kids rocking out to their favorite “parent-approved” playlists from the school bus all the way through after-school activities. The best part is that this speaker is made just for kids – small enough to fit in their hands with a built-in strap for on-the-go listening. $29.95
The Lullabuddy is a lullaby player & speaker that comes pre-loaded with 2 hours of Mae Robertson’s award winning lullabies and love songs — music that both parents and babies will enjoy. The super compact music player comes with a shuffle button, a one-hour timer and a mini USB cable for charging. When fully charged, it will play for up to 18 hours. The music was remastered specifically for the Lullabuddy with wonderful sound quality. The speaker is also Bluetooth enabled so that other music can be played from a mobile device. $60.
For more reviews, visit nappaawards.com
We all want to do fun things with our kids, but sometimes coming up with the ideas is the hardest part. With these recent NAPPA Award-winners, you’ll have tons of inspiration for creative fun.
101 Kids Activities That Are the Ooey, Gooey-est Ever!
From the bestselling authors of 101 Kids Activities, 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments and Adorkable Bubble Bath Crafts, 101 Kids Activities That Are the Ooey, Gooey-est Ever! is full of exciting and fantastical recipes that include tips on the science behind the goo, so you can learn too. Whether it’s a slime, a dough or some other moldable creation, you’ll be able to create and become whatever your imagination dreams up. $21.99, ages 6 to 12.
Awesome Edible Kids Crafts
Never before has it been more fun to play with your food! Arena Blake, founder of the blog The Nerd’s Wife, shares exciting crafts that are made out of your favorite things to eat. Awesome Edible Kids Crafts features a variety of projects, each with a difficulty rating that lets you know if you’l need a grownup’s help. All projects use safe, nontoxic ingredients to spark creativity. $21.99, ages 6 to 11 years.
Express Yourself: A Hand Lettering Workbook for Kids
Decorate your life with fun fonts and beautiful quotes made your way. In Express Yourself: A Hand Lettering Workbook for Kids, Amy Latta will show you the basics of hand lettering and beyond. Learn fancy cursive and watercolor lettering. Add adorable details like flowers and animals. In the craft bonus section, you’ll find ideas on how to turn your finished work into fabulous DIY projects. Embellish pillows, notebooks and wall art with your own unique writing. It’s easy to share your art online, and make one-of-a-kind cards and invitations for friends and family. $19.99, ages 10+
The Napa Valley is well known for its sprawling wineries and luxurious adult getaways, but the region is also home to several opportunities for family-friendly adventure. Located about an hour north of the San Francisco Bay area, visitors of all ages can enjoy the famous California climate while exploring the protected natural landscapes, various restaurants, or a relaxing spa day in the mineral pools.
Calistoga’s Old Faithful Geyser is a definite family favorite and is one of only three “faithful” geysers in the world. Even the most restless kids will be entertained with a 350 degree spout of water erupting every half hour. The sprays of mist form spectacular rainbows, creating the perfect photo opportunity with a serene Napa landscape. While waiting for the eruption, families can stop by the Old Faithful Animal Farm, a petting zoo featuring Tennessee Fainting Goats, Jacob’s four-horn sheep, and Guard llamas.
For a little natural history lesson you can drive five minutes up the road to the Petrified Forest. Take a walk through the worlds largest petrified redwood trees that were turned to stone 3.4 million years ago by a massive volcanic explosion. The redwood trees, now extinct, have become fossils and are decorated with sparkly mineral quartz that are sure to catch your eye.
Food and Drink
Foodies on Foot is a pet and family accessible culinary walking tour highlighting several restaurants in Historic Downtown Napa. The 3-hour tour features 5-7 different eateries with picky eater friendly dishes like pizza and ice cream. Kids under six eat free, those between 6-12 are half price ($35), and the ticket price is $70 for everyone in between.
Many parents would be weary of bringing their children along for a wine tasting, but Castello di Amorosa has more than enough activities to keep your little knights and princesses occupied. The idyllic reproduction of a 13th century Italian castle is near exact, with a moat, dungeon, and suits of armor available to explore. Peacocks, emus, and sheep roam the grounds and can keep the younger ones occupied while parents enjoy an authentic Tuscan wine or cheese tasting.
For something more hands on, The Culinary Institute of America at Copia offers Family Funday every Sunday for all ages and experience levels. Bring the whole family for an hour-long cooking demonstration that teaches both adults and children useful cooking tricks and kitchen skills. The courses always end with a taste of that day’s dish, so your family can learn and enjoy some culinary secrets from some of the best chefs in California.
Arts and Culture
The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is centered around the charming Winery Lake and features several educational programs and exhibitions for all ages. Two galleries and a walkable Sculpture Meadow highlight contemporary Bay Area artists on the sprawling 217 acres in Napa’s Carneros region. Admission is free for children 17 and under and the museum offers additional discounts for seniors, military, educators, and students.
Silverado Resort and Spa ($) offers one or two bedroom suites with a full kitchen, private patio, and Wi-Fi access. While parents are enjoying a day at the spa or picking up treats at the Silverado Market and Bakery, children ages 6-12 can participate in a supervised eight-week Golf, Tennis, and Swim Camp (GTS).
At the Indian Springs Calistoga Resort ($$) you can choose between a room, cottage, bungalow, or full house for your visit. It is home to two swimming pools, including a temperature regulated Olympic sized mineral pool. The casual atmosphere is perfect for a relaxing getaway, and the amenities include several outdoor games and complimentary bikes to explore the town.
The Carneros Resort and Spa ($$$) offers several cottages with ample space for the whole family. The resort has three restaurants on-site, two pools, fitness classes, and a selection of dog-friendly amenities for your furry friend. Carneros also hosts Kids’ Night, June through September, with board games, ping-pong, and a kid-friendly movie.